Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten years after

Onward! 4LAKids
4LAKids: Sunday 11•Sept•2011
Ten years after
In This Issue:
CHARTER REFORMS SIDETRACKED: Governor voices concerns with Brownley bills
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

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“Twenty-five years from now the war we undertook against al-Qaeda won’t seem nearly as important as the wars we waged against physics and math.”

- Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum “That Used to Be Us” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Adam Gopnik in his New Yorker review of the above [] continues (and I paraphrase): Friedman and Mandelbaum catalog the ways the ways America has slipped behind the rest of the world – including "our paralyzed education system where that war against science was fought; and with our generally inverted values, which leave us with too many bankers betting on each others' bets and too many lawyers deposing other lawyers.

"The reason we don’t have beautiful new airports and efficient bullet trains is not that we have inadvertently stumbled upon stumbling blocks; it’s that there are considerable numbers of Americans for whom these things are simply a symbol of a feared central government, and who would, when they travel, rather sweat in squalor than surrender the money to build a better terminal. They hate fast trains and efficient airports for the same reason that seventeenth-century Protestants hated the beautiful Baroque churches of Rome when they saw them: they were luxurious symbols of an earthly power they despised.

“Americans are perfectly willing to sacrifice their comforts for their ideological convictions. We don’t have a better infrastructure or decent elementary education exactly because many people are willing to sacrifice faster movement between our great cities, or better-informed children, in support of their belief that the government should always be given as little money as possible.”

PRESIDENT OBAMA MADE HIS JOBS SPEECH THURSDAY NIGHT – making an appeal (among other things) to save teachers jobs and rebuild and modernize schools.
At the same time there was:
A) a blackout in much of the Southwest, and
B) some background noise about a possible al Qaeda attack on DC or NYC.
Whenever the president addresses a joint session he always leaves one cabinet member in an undisclosed location to run the free world should something like the alleged al Qaeda plot wipe out the Capitol. He left Ed Secretary Duncan behind this time.
Be afraid …be very afraid.

SCHOOL HAS STARTED ANEW and because every day is a hopeful new sunrise and every year a package of promising new tomorrows we are off again with our new backpacks and new notebooks, laptops, tablets and netbooks. And new #2 pencils, 7 inches of unused magic, 5/8 inch of new pink eraser.

"Hope, living in hope, is a really terrible thing. People speak about hope most of the time as a very positive thing. And I understand why, and it's become sort of entered into political language and so on. But really - if you stop and think about the state of living in hope - it's a very dispossessing thing; it's a very difficult thing to live with. When you've been living in hope for a long time, as I have, suddenly you realize that Certainty is far more desirable than Hope." - Libyan author Hisham Matar, interviewed on NPR []

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

By Alyson Klein | Ed Week |

September 8, 2011 7:09 PM -| President Barack Obama called for $30 billion in new money to stave off teacher layoffs—and $30 billion more to revamp facilities at the nation's K-12 schools and community colleges—as he outlined his vision for spurring the sputtering economy in a speech to Congress Thursday night.

The education proposals will be part of a $447 billion legislative package expected to be introduced next week. The president said he would propose cuts elsewhere to pay for the plan, but he didn't release specifics.

However, details have emerged on what the education portion will look like.

K-12 schools could get up to $25 billion for renovations, which administration officials estimate could pay for makeovers of at least 35,000 public schools. That construction money could be used for emergency repairs and renovations, energy efficiency updates, and asbestos removal. Schools also could use the money to build new science and computer labs, and to update technology. Another $5 billion would go to help retool community college facilities.

States would have until Sept. 30, 2012, to decide how to spend the construction money. It would be sent to states based on need, but the biggest 100 districts would get a direct grant. Within states, half the construction money would be competitive, with special priority for rural schools, and the rest would go out by formula. (For more on a possible legislative vehicle for the plan, click here.)

The $30 billion to avert teacher layoffs, to be spent over two years, could save as many as 280,000 educators' jobs, senior administration officials estimated. To put that $30 billion in perspective, that's about twice as much as districts got from the main federal K-12 program—Title I grants for disadvantaged students—this year.

Districts could use the layoff money to pay for benefits and to hire new staff. And states would not have to agree to sign on to the administration's four big education reform priorities—state data systems, turning around low-performing schools, improving teacher distribution, and boosting standards. That's a significant departure from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which sought to reform education while strengthening the economy.

So will this pass?

Probably not.

There's almost no chance that Republicans—who generally think the $100 billion for education in the stimulus was a giant waste of money—will rush to support this. Remember, the administration had a very tough time getting Congress to approve $10 billion for the Education Jobs Fund back in the summer of 2010, when Democrats had healthy majorities in both chambers.

In fact, moments after the speech, GOP Rep. John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said:

"More stimulus spending is not the right solution to our nation's job crisis. Common sense tells us that putting the federal government in the business of school construction will only lead to higher costs and more regulations. It also tells us that another teacher union bailout will not ensure a quality education for our children."

Rep. George Miller, the top Democrat on the committee, applauded the proposals, saying many of the steps the president called for were the right ones:

"Congress must put partisanship aside and seize this moment to work together to put Americans back to work and our economy forward moving forward."

Miller recently introduced a bill to help spur local job creation through public sector job creation.

Sen. Tom Harkin, the chairman of the Senate panels that oversee K-12 spending and policy, also cheered the education jobs money and the school construction funding:

"The president's call to renovate our schools is a win-win for our economy and for our children. Kids cannot be expected to reach their full potential if the school they attend is crumbling around them."

But the school facilities funding is going to face a rough road, too. Top Democrats on the education panels, including Miller, D-Calif., and Harkin, D-Iowa, tried to get money for school facilities into the original stimulus bill. But it was stripped out to win approval from moderate Democrats and Republicans. It's tough to see a path for a program like that in the current, much more conservative Congress.

Supporters of the proposals recognize those challenges, but they're hoping Congress can be swayed by public opinion.

"If they were to vote today, then the House Republicans would defeat it," admitted Ross Eisenbrey, the vice-president of the Economic Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank (which has union officials on its board). He wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post urging Obama to include money for school facilities in the package. "I'm hoping the public reacts to this and says, 'That's the kind of federal spending that I want.'"

"I think the American people are saying to Congress, it's time that you start caring about us," Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the National Education Association, told me. "We have stories coming from the field, classes as large as forty or forty-five students in the elementary grades ... that's just wrong."

Van Roekel said the NEA members would share those stories with their congressmen to help "put a face" on the problem.

Politics K-12 analysis: Administration officials have said this jobs package has pieces that have garnered broad bipartisan support, but the education piece seems more like a re-election campaign promise than a serious legislative proposal.

The Obama administration will need the two teachers' unions—the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers—to help with get-out-the-vote efforts in swing states. The NEA has already endorsed Obama's re-election campaign, but teachers are still skeptical of his policies (especially his push to tie teachers' pay—and their jobs—to student outcomes).

The administration has got to be hoping that asking for money to save teachers' jobs will help bridge that enthusiasm gap ... even as teachers realize that Congress will probably say no.

But Van Roekel thinks the union has continued to have a strong relationship with the president.

"American schools needed to be upgraded and repaired, not our relationship," he said.

And these proposals are sure to reignite the debate over whether the education part of the ARRA was money down the toilet—or much needed funding to help boost student achievement and spur local economic growth.

In case you missed it, here's an excerpt from the president's speech:

"The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools. It will put people to work right now fixing roofs and windows; installing science labs and high-speed internet in classrooms all across this country. It will rehabilitate homes and businesses in communities hit hardest by foreclosures. It will jumpstart thousands of transportation projects across the country. And to make sure the money is properly spent and for good purposes, we're building on reforms we've already put in place. No more earmarks. No more boondoggles. No more bridges to nowhere. We're cutting the red tape that prevents some of these projects from getting started as quickly as possible. And we'll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria: how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it would do for the economy.

"This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat. The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America's largest business organization and America's largest labor organization. It's the kind of proposal that's been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike. You should pass it right away.

"Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher. But while they're adding teachers in places like South Korea, we're laying them off in droves. It's unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this jobs bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong."

Oh, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan was the Cabinet official left out of the speech this time, a precaution taken in case of a disaster.

CHARTER REFORMS SIDETRACKED: Governor voices concerns with Brownley bills
By John Fensterwald - Educated Guess |

9/09/11 - Facing objections raised by Gov. Jerry Brown, Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Julia Brownley this week withdrew a package of charter reform bills that she and the California Charter Schools Assn. had spent four months negotiating. She expressed optimism that she could satisfy Brown’s concerns, which she would not specify, in coming months.

Brownley pulled AB 360, requiring that charters comply with public records, open meeting, and conflict of interest laws, and AB 440, which would set new academic minimums for a school to have its charter renewed. A third bill, SB 645, sponsored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, had already been waylaid by the Assembly.

Brownley, D-Santa Monica, has spent two years pushing for more transparency and tighter accounting requirements in charter school operations. The charter schools association has called for using minimum API scores and academic growth measures to weed out poorly performing charters, and asked Simitian to sponsor their bill. The association and Brownley came together to see if they could settle their differences.

They came close. AB 320 already had passed both chambers of the Legislature and was a procedural vote from heading to Brown for his signature. AB 440 was headed for a final vote in the Senate, where it faced opposition from some Republican senators, the CTA, and the California School Boards Assn. for different reasons. While there still was a good chance it would have passed, Brownley said she ran out of time to address Brown’s issues.

Brownley and Simitian met with Brown last month for what turned into a 2 ½ hour meeting. Brown founded and was intricately involved in two charter schools in Oakland, and has strong views on how charters should operate.

Brownley said that Brown did not offer specific changes to the bills but expressed concern that the academic targets and blanket conflict of interest regulations not be too prescriptive. The charter schools association had created exemptions to regulations that it thought protected charters.

It was a timing issue, Brownley said. “There wasn’t enough time left in the session for the governor to feel comfortable with where we were headed.”


by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |

September 5, 2011 - The state has thrown out the test scores of a top-performing Los Angeles school and of the highest-scoring campus in the nationally known Green Dot charter group after cheating was uncovered involving several teachers.

Short Avenue Elementary in Del Rey and Animo Leadership Charter High School in Inglewood were barred from receiving academic rankings released last week by the California Department of Education. That action deprived the schools of the state rating that has become the key figure used by parents and officials to judge campuses in California.

At Short, three teachers are accused of changing answers or coaching students to the correct answers or both. At Animo Leadership, a science teacher is accused of fixing wrong answers.

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy characterized the Short Avenue teachers' actions as gross misconduct.

"Students take tests independent and alone," Deasy said. "We don't coach them and give them answers." He added, "It's obviously wrong behavior, but it's more than that.... It's not the behavior we want to model — ever."

When the improprieties came to light, the Los Angeles Unified School District and Green Dot conducted internal investigations and notified the state Education Department. As a result, each school was struck from this year's Academic Performance Index, the rating used to measure the progress of schools in California.

Cheating scandals have received increasing attention nationwide. In the Atlanta school system, 82 educators have admitted cheating, with misconduct documented at 44 of 100 schools. In Washington, D.C., concerns have risen about cheating in response to the high-stakes improvement mandates of former Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Locally, at six charter schools operated by Crescendo, principals were ordered last year to require teachers to review the state tests in advance and then use that material to prepare students. L.A. Unified recently closed those schools in the aftermath of the scandal.

Such episodes underscore the pressures and pitfalls of testing systems that, nationwide, increasingly affect teacher and principal evaluations and whether schools achieve acclaim or censure and penalties.

At Short Avenue, a third-grade teacher identified as Teacher C had "average erasures per student of 10 to 21," and most were changed from wrong to right, according to a summary of a district internal investigation. One student acknowledged she'd left math questions unanswered because they were "too hard," the report stated. But correct answers appeared in the booklet.

"In the principal's office, she was unable to perform a basic addition/subtraction problem," the report said. "Most students were advised by the teacher as to which questions were incorrect, and then the teacher instructed students to return to their seat to correct their answers."

The probe began when a parent raised concerns about a second-grade teacher accused of reviewing questions on the standardized tests after students had finished with them for the day. Students use different portions of the same multiple-choice booklets for the tests.

Students "admitted that they went back the next day and changed their incorrect answer to the correct one as a result of the previous day's review," L.A. Unified stated in its report to the state.

Another third-grade teacher, identified as Teacher B, "had numerous erasures (207) as well, with the majority of all erasures changed to the correct answer."

This teacher also "walked around the classroom and pointed to incorrect answer[s] in test booklet and told students to go back and check that particular problem." The teacher helped students decide which mathematical operation to use and wrote helpful notes on their scratch paper.

The students of that teacher said they didn't consider the assistance cheating because the instructor didn't directly indicate the right answer.

L.A. Unified did not provide requested information about Short Avenue. Details were instead obtained through a public records request from the state.

Deasy said he planned to launch a deeper investigation, including into whether scores from past years are legitimate. Short Avenue had until now been a success story, with a mix of students that substantially reflects the district at large. About two-thirds are low-income and about two-thirds are Latino. Other ethnicities include white (11%), black (9.4%) and Asian (8%.) Last year, the school's performance index ranking was 848, well above the state target of 800.

At Animo Leadership, students alerted adults of possible cheating.

When students received their booklets to resume testing, at least two 11th-graders noticed that their answers to the physics test appeared to have been changed since the previous day, said Marco Petruzzi, Green Dot's chief executive.

The teacher proctoring the tests immediately alerted administrators. Green Dot notified its board, the state and school district officials.

State records indicate that a staff member is suspected of "accessing 11th-grade answer documents and altering answers" on the physics exam, said John Boivin, administrator for the testing office at the California Department of Education. As many as 148 students out of 604 could have been affected.

Petruzzi said a thorough investigation found no widespread evidence of wrongdoing. He said pending disciplinary action prevented him from providing more details.

Educators guilty of cheating face dismissal and possibly the loss of credentials that allow them to work in public education. L.A. Unified and Green Dot have not released the names of the implicated teachers.

Green Dot Public Schools runs 18 charter campuses, including at Locke High in South L.A. and a campus in New York City. Charters are publicly funded, independently run schools.

With a valid score, Animo Leadership would have approached an 800 API, which high schools serving large numbers of low-income minority students struggle to attain. The school, which was the founding Green Dot campus, has been named among the top 100 public high schools by U.S. News & World Report.

"It would have been our highest-scoring school," Petruzzi said. "That's why I'm so disappointed."

Neither Deasy nor Petruzzi made excuses regarding the increasing pressure that teachers face to deliver ever-better test scores.

"You cannot always avoid students or adults cheating," Petruzzi said. "What is important is how the institutions or corporations or organizations react. It is not tolerated here."

●●smf’s 2¢: a couple of points, from the top o’ my head:

● This isn’t about charter schools or traditional schools. Both schools are unionized schools.
● The stakes in “high-stakes-testing” have become a little too high. The people who allegedly cheated were led into temptation – even if the tests (and certainly the system) aren’t designed to catch ethical or moral failure. If the stories as reported are as reported the folks responsible should be swiftly outta there …in accordance with due process.
● It is interesting that it was parents who blew the whistle at Short Avenue and students at Amino Leadership. As indeed it was teachers who did the same at Crescendo.
● I have not yet found a report from CDE about other schools in CA that are being investigated or sanctioned similarly. I think it’s safe to assume that Short Ave and Amino Leadership are not unique.

● See this MID-TESTING CLASSES AIDED SWEETWATER GAIN | from San Diego about some institutionalized fudging on tests at Sweetwater High in National City.
● and CALIFORNIA TEACHERS HELPED STUDENTS CHEAT ON ACHIEVEMENT TEST | (from 2007) – which describes that the institution is not new.


By Gale Holland and Michael Finnegan Los Angeles Times

September 08, 2011| Yielding to outside pressure, the Los Angeles Community College District has asked City Controller Wendy Greuel to investigate allegations that its selection of a watchdog to police its troubled campus construction program was rigged.

In a recent audit of the $5.7-billion program, state Controller John Chiang's office cited "possible malfeasance" in the district's hiring of Christine E. Marez as inspector general and urged an independent investigation.

Marez's newly formed company, Policy Masters Inc., was chosen last year over higher-rated applicants, even though she had no experience as an independent auditor or investigator.

From 1998 to 2003, Marez worked for a construction management firm owned by Art Gastelum, a leading campaign donor and fundraiser for the district's elected board members and a major contractor on the construction program.

Chancellor Daniel LaVista, who had recommended Marez's hiring to the board, initially rejected Chiang's call for an outside investigation. But board President Miguel Santiago announced Wednesday that Greuel would conduct an independent review.

Santiago promised to refer any evidence of criminal conduct to the district attorney's office.

Greuel said in an interview that district officials were "taking to heart what the auditor found, and wanted to have an independent look at the process to make sure it was appropriate."

The board also adopted a resolution directing LaVista to take corrective measures recommended by state auditors, including developing a construction master plan and written requirements for evaluating bidders. The resolution also called for an analysis of the district's renewable energy program to determine whether it will produce net savings.

Regarding the inspector general's hiring, state auditors found that an initial selection committee scored Marez's proposal second to last among 11 submitted. The district's bidding rules required that the contract to go to the highest scorer, auditors said. A second selection committee recommended Marez's firm as "far and away the best" applicant.

LaVista maintains that the auditors' findings were based on incorrect information and that Marez was ranked in the top tier in the first round. LaVista said Wednesday that state auditors were returning this week to question him on the issue.

Marez said she welcomed Greuel's review. She also defended her qualifications and called the state audit "seriously flawed in many respects."

"The company I created, Policy Masters, and the staff I have built have all of the requisite skills, experience, talent and commitment to create an exceptional office of inspector general for the district," she said. "And that is what we have done."

A citizen's group, the Van de Kamps Coalition, has asked Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley to open a criminal inquiry into Marez's hiring. An official in Cooley's public integrity unit said prosecutors had not yet reviewed the request but that Greuel's investigation would not rule out a separate criminal inquiry by the district attorney.

●●smf's 2¢: How the Los Angeles City Controller has oversight over the Los Angles Community College District eludes me. The LACCD is a creation of state law, local oversight would correctly be with county government (LAUSD on the other hand was created by the LA City Charter.) LA County administers the community college bond funds in question. The state controller has already identified potential malfeasance in the appointment of Ms. Marez – the proper investigating authority would either be the District Attorney /County Grand Jury or the State Attorney General – as the State Controller made the allegation of wrongdoing the AG would seem more appropriate. Perhaps, if the allegations were purely of a fiscal nature, the County Auditor would be the correct investigator. Additionally there is real question over the role of the Los Angeles Mayor's Office in the Van de Kamps matter – bringing the independence of the LA City Controller into question.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
Old school board members never fade away …they just reappear in 4LAKids:

Back to school: LET’S BELIEVE IN THE MAGIC OF SCHOOL LIKE HARRY POTTER: By David Tokofsky, Editorial in the Los Feliz Ledger | ...://

Duffy + me: WHEN YOUR ENEMY REACHES OUT, REACH BACK: By Caprice Young, L.A. Times Opinion L.A. [Blowback] |

BACK TO SCHOOL, NOW BACK TO WORK: Themes in the News for the week of Sept. 6-9, 2011 by UCLA IDEA |

THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR – New year, schools, calendars, rules + tweets from the new supe...

PARENTS CALLED ON TO SUPPORT CASH STRAPPED SCHOOLS: For principals in Highland Park and Mount Washington, the fi...


NEW CARSON AREA LAUSD SCHOOL REWRITES THE RULES: By Melissa Pamer Staff Writer, Daily Breeze (from the Contra Co...

BUDGET WOES MAY WORSEN FOR LAUSD SCHOOLS: LAUSD chief says he's 'very concerned' about financial outlook: By Con...

MET LIFE LOSES LAUSD CONTRACT AFTER FLAP WITH BOARD MEMBER: Richard Vladovic persuades fellow school board membe...


CHARTER SCHOOL SHUTDOWN LEAVES STUDENTS, TEACHERS SCRAMBLING + smf’s 2¢: West Sacramento charter school students...


A.J. DUFFY, EDUCATION REFORMER? Could Duffy have been a closeted reformer all those years? Or do his views simpl...

PUSHING PARENTS TO GET INVOLVED IN KIDS‘ EDUCATION: South Gate resident Mary Johnson, who sent her four children...

THE STAKES OF LAUSD’s SCHOOL CHOICE: Editorial in the Daily Breeze 9/04...


EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-241.8700


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • Find your state legislator based on your home address. Just go to: • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Brown: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT. THEY DO!.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and is Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for ten years. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served as a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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